Write every day: Advice on achieving goals from Sara Blakely, Founder of SPANX


MasterClass recently had a Q&A on Instagram Live with Sara Blakely, Founder of SPANX. Sara offered up practical, immediately-actionable advice for anyone who is an entrepreneur, freelancer, or has goals they want to meet. I took notes and posted them over on Medium. If you like this post, please hop over to Medium, and give it some claps!

  • Bucket your days of the week by type of work
    Sara tries her best to reserve whole days of her work week for different types of work: marketing, product, future planning, etc. It doesn’t always work out perfectly but bucketing them helps her to make sure she’s hitting every part of the business each week and also giving herself the room to devote her attention to each one.
  • Write down your goals and post them so you see them every day
    There’s so much research about the value of not just having goals but physically writing them down and posting them so that you see them every day. It keeps you accountable and focused no matter how busy life gets.
  • Have one word for the year as an overarching goal
    It doesn’t matter what it is: peace, love, rest, self-care, travel. Have a theme for your year. In 2020, mine is Productivity. It’s posted on my front door so I see it every day.
  • Visualize your goals
    Right down to what you’re wearing when it happens, visualize what you want to happen and then use your waking hours to take that visualization from your imagination into reality.
  • Regularly try to fail
    There’s a lot of talk about celebrating your failures. Many times we’re so busy building ourselves up to succeed that we don’t reach as far as we could. We don’t take risks. We don’t take chances. Sara’s not saying to be reckless; she’s saying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. The fear of failure is really the fear of embarrassment and the concern about what others will think of you. How can you begin to put that concern aside and go after what you really want, the dreams so big that you’re much more likely to fail than succeed? What would that look like?
  • Own your ideas and don’t be afraid to stay small to be self-sustaining
    Sara owns SPANX 100%, and has from the beginning 20 years ago. She doesn’t have investors. She never took a business class. She never worked in fashion. She just created a product to solve a problem she had: she wanted to wear white pants to a party without having anything show underneath. She never got ahead of herself. She was okay staying small, running the business out of her apartment for two years by herself. She built a great product and then promoted the heck out of it. Once she was profitable, she didn’t need investors. She didn’t waste her time chasing investment money. She went out and got business to support her product.
  • People care much more about the why rather than the what of your product
    Ask yourself “Why is my product or service different? Why did I start this?” That’s the story to tell to customers, partners, collaborators, employees, and to anyone and everyone you meet.

Thank you to Sara and to Masterclass for organizing this Q&A. It’s exactly the shot in the arm I needed today. Sign up for Masterclass at and follow Sara on Instagram at


Joy Today: The detours are the journey

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” -Rumi

We’ll be disappointed. Things won’t go as planned. Try another route. Another idea. Another pitch. These failures are all material. The detours are the journey.


A Year of Yes: The best lesson from Maya Angelou—I’m with you, kid.

“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I’m with you, kid. Let’s go.’ ~Maya Angelou

I’m so glad Maya Angelou got her stories down, that she left us with such a legacy of hope, encouragement, and the unbridled belief that ordinary people can chase down extraordinary dreams. This quote that she tossed out onto Twitter about a year before she passed continues to inspire me. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s the only place where she ever wrote it down.

It conjures up a mental image for me that’s empowering and action-oriented. The very best helping hands we have are at the ends of our own arms. Use them. Build the life you want. Yes, you can do this.


A Year of Yes: Take the next step

Photo by Me 🙂

The first step of a new project is hard, but there’s a lot of encouragement out there about taking it. What’s just as hard, if not harder, and what rarely gets the encouragement it needs and deserves is the next step.

Maybe your first step was more like a stumble. Maybe the first step was greeted with joy, congratulations, and that often twinge-worthy question of “what’s next for you?” Whether your first step was successful or not, what you do next has a lot of expectation behind it. I’ve always found it takes even more energy and gumption to take that next step. Too few people take it. A lot of people start things; far fewer people continue something, and even fewer actually finish what they started.

All I want you to do is take one more step toward something you want to do. Make it a leap, or make it a baby step. Just do it. I believe in you.


In the pause: How to achieve impossible dreams

When I want to do something big, I spend about 30 seconds thinking about what that goal looks and feels like. Almost immediately, I move into what I call breakdown mode. I start to break apart that big, beautiful dream into bite-sized pieces. The big dream, for me, is too daunting and it’s not actionable. I make it happen, I’ve got to unpack it, dissect it, and put it into a to-do list with deadlines. And then I pick a place and begin. For my writing, it’s one word at a time. For my collage work, it’s one tiny piece of paper. For getting a new job, it’s making sure my resume is up-to-date in all its various forms and channels. You get the idea. It’s a puzzle and the best I can do is focus on one piece at a time.

When my head hits the pillow at night or when I sit down for my 18 minutes of daily meditation, I give myself a little chance to think about that shiny goal out there in the distance. I fall asleep thinking about those dreams and I wake up thinking about them. Everything in between, all my waking hours, are devoted to action. It’s the only way I know how to make things happen.


In the pause: Walls are made for climbing

unnamedThis week, the many different threads at my job started to connect. It’s immensely gratifying to learn a large and complex technology platform, all for the sake of bringing more art, theater, music, and dance to more people. The vertical learning curve is becoming a little less vertical. Or maybe I am just becoming a more adept climber.

This idea of scaling walls reminded me of this sign I saw a few months ago when I was shoulder-deep in my job search, including interviewing for my current job. I wasn’t sure what would happen in my search, or what I would do about what would happen when it did happen. (This is how my ind works. It’s in a constant state of whirring.) What I needed was a sign, so I asked for one as I made my way up Fifth Avenue from the New York Public Library to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s when I saw this sign in the North Face storefront: Walls are meant for climbing. And about 30 minutes later, I heard from my now current job that I was moving on to the next and final round. Less than a week later, they offered me the job.

It’s this sense of optimism, asking the Universe for guidance, and then opening our eyes and ears to take in the wisdom around us that we have to take with us everywhere we go, into every situation that we face. We may not always be successful though our odds dramatically increase when we can look at a wall not as a roadblock, but as a reason to smile. I got this. You got this. We all got this.


In the pause: Finishing the first draft of my second novel by Labor Day

“Why don’t you finish your second book in the Emerson Page series by Labor Day?” my friend, Colleen, said to me.

My response: Blink. Blink. Whaaaaat?

But since she said that to me, I can’t get the thought out of my mind. I’m moved into my new apartment, I’m interviewing and job searching, and I’m catching up with friends. I can do this. I wrote my first novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, while working full-time at a startup in a new city.

The first novel sets up so many threads for the second and the world building piece, the heaviest lift, is done. I just need to get it all down so why not set a wild writing goal for myself? And look, Toni Morrison wrote her first novel in 15-minute increments before falling into bed each night while she was a single working mother. She made time to write. I will, too.

Thank you for the push, Colleen. I’m going for it. First draft of Emerson’s second book has a deadline of Labor Day, September 4, 2017.


In the pause: The surprising truth about pursuing our goals

My friend, Alex, sent this quote to me and it resonates with me so deeply. This idea is what prompted my move back to New York City and this change in career direction. I could have kept moving ahead on a corporate path. I could have continued to climb in title and compensation. Except that I really couldn’t do that and be true to myself. I have turned down jobs and projects not because I couldn’t do them but because they weren’t rooted in how I want to spend my time. This is a tough thing to do.
We tell ourselves all of the convenient reasons we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing even though it may not be what fires us up. It makes today easier at the expense of our tomorrows. What I’m doing is making my today more challenging because I want my tomorrows to be more fulfilling. It’s all a gamble. I don’t know how it’s going to go but here’s what I do know—if I didn’t follow this path I’m on now, I’d always wonder what might have been. And I didn’t want to wonder; I wanted to take my best shot and manage whatever happens next. It may not be the best choice for everyone, but it’s certainly the best choice for me.

In the pause: Balance the two kinds of happiness

There are two kinds of happiness: the one that comes from instant gratification and the one that comes from the slow slog toward a desired goal. The first makes us happy in the here and now, but it usually doesn’t last long. The second makes us happy when viewed through the arc of life but in the here and now can be difficult and uncomfortable. I’ve found that I need a good balance of both to truly feel good about life.

Art, music, good food, time with my friends, my dog, and working out are all things that make me immediately happy. Writing, working on my entrepreneurial ideas, and learning something new that I’m not yet particularly good at fall into that second bucket. It’s not that I don’t get any joy from them in the near-term; it’s just that to feel truly happy about them I need to look at them through a longer lens and with a goal in mind.

Knowing about this balance helps me figure out how to allocate my time, effort, and energy to be happy at this moment and to ensure I’m happy down the line, too.


Wonder: Fill your time with work that feels like play

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between work and play.” ~L.P. Jacks

There are so many reasons that I’m excited for my new job that starts a week from today. There’s the one phrase about the respectful and professional culture in the job description that told me this is the place for me: “This is a very egalitarian operational environment…everyone has a say.” There’s the great opportunity ahead to build products based in AI, AR, and VR technology that will help people live healthier, happier lives. There is the sense of starting from a blank canvas that will rapidly be filled in to develop a prototype product in a quick handful of months. There’s the small, experienced team that will work closely together around a single table for a single goal.

And still, above all of that, what has me most excited about this opportunity is the quote above by L.P. Jacks. The roles and companies I have most loved in my career are those that didn’t feel like work at all because what I was doing was so interesting that is took my curiosity and sense of wonder to a level that felt like play. I didn’t mind the long hours, I barely noticed the time flying by, because the work itself was so satisfying that it gave me energy rather than draining it. And I am so ready to return to that kind of work.

When people ask me what I want my career and my life to be, I have to turn to L.P. Jacks and say, “Thank you for putting my whole purpose into 15 words.”